Food adulteration is an act of intentionally debasing the quality of food ordered for sale, either by the admixture or substitution of inferior substances or by the removal of some valuable ingredients.” – Food Security & Standards Association of India (FSSAI).
Science and Technology Minister Mr. Harsh Vardhan’s recent comment on adulterated milk raked up an atmosphere of anxiety not only within the chambers of Lok Sabha but in the drawing rooms of Indians across the country. It is a daunting thought, that over 68% of the milk in India fails to meet the recommended quality standards. Not only is milk one of the most important ingredients for children’s overall development, it is essential for adult health as well. Apart from nutritional purposes, it is also the most widely used item, in desserts, food preparations, baking and not to mention beverages like chai and coffee.
(Make milk adulteration punishable with life imprisonment: SC)Mr. Harsh Vardhan spoke about various contaminants found in milk when tested across the country. Most of the commonly ones would include detergent, white paint, caustic soda, refined oil and glucose. This has once again led to questioning the efficacy of the central food regulator. Last year in July, the food watchdog, FSSAI announced putting a cap on Melamine content in milk and milk products sold across the country.Milk Adulteration
MelamineAccording to the World Health Oraganisation, “Melamine is an organic base chemical most commonly found in the form of white crystals rich in nitrogen and is widely used in plastics, adhesives, countertops, dishware, and whiteboards. Companies using the milk for further production (e.g. of powdered infant formula) normally check the protein level through a test measuring nitrogen content. The addition of melamine increases the nitrogen content of the milk and therefore its apparent protein content.”United Nation’s food standards body, the Codex Alimentarius Commission mentions the maximum limit of melamine content in powdered infant formula as 1 mg per kg and for other foods and animal feed as 2.5 mg per kg.In a notification published last year, the FSSAI proposed imposing a permissible limit of 1 mg of melamine in every kg of powdered infant formula, 0.15 mg per kg in liquid infant formula and 2.5 mg per kg in other foods. E. ColiExperts believe that bacteria like E.coli – essentially found in cow’s waste – can easily mix with milk. If cows are not cleaned properly, the remnants of waste can make its way to the freshly collected milk. The bacteria can then multiply and can cause serious harm if one consumes the same milk.
The National Survey on Milk Adulteration 2011The survey was conducted by the FSSAI to check for the contaminating agents in milk. It was found that in most cases the contamination happened at the procurement, packing & packaging stage. Lack of hygiene and sanitation during the overall process was another factor. Contaminants such as detergent, glucose, starch, urea and formaline also seemed to have found their way into the final product in most samples. According to the report published on the official website of Centre for Science and Environment, the adulterants used are usually for the purpose enhancing the volume, thickness, consistency and viscosity of milk and to increase the shelf life of the final product.”Samples were collected from 28 states and five union territories. The worst performers were Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, West Bengal, Mizoram, Jharkhand and Daman & Diu, where non-conformity with food safety standards was 100 per cent. There are nearly 70 per cent samples which have not conformed to the standards set for milk. Samples collected from rural areas fared better with only 30 per cent non-compliance as compared to urban centres. Water turned out to be the most common adulterant in milk. About eight per cent samples were found to have detergents,” as published on the CSE website.Water as an Adulterant
According to Mr. Amit Khurana, programme manager, food safety and toxins, CSE, E. coli and other bacteria that contaminate milk can mostly be countered by ensuring proper sanitation and hygiene at all processing stages as well as by boiling and pasteurizing milk properly. In case of addition of water, it is bound to lead many microbiological issues tied with the inclusion of unsafe water in human system. “The key would be to know the nature of adulteration. Best to my knowledge, most adulteration found in the FSSAI 2011 survey was with respect to water,” he shared
“What we should be concerned about about is the intentional addition of artificial agents and adulterate milk. Mixing water in milk is a common practice by the local doodhwallahs. Having harmful elements – urea, carbonates and bicarbonates, salt, sugar, hydrogen peroxide, neutralizers (NaHCO3 , Na2 CO3 , NaOH, Ca(OH)2 etc.), sodium chloride, etc. added to our everyday drink is completely unacceptable. You cannot have synthetic milk, the regulators need to come down on such an issue by all means,” he added.
2015 Kashmir Despatch